Holiday Overwhelm? Take a Ratatouille Day!

Holiday Overwhelm? Take a Ratatouille Day! December 4, 2023

By guest blogger Anne Randerson.

Many of us feel a sense of overwhelm when we see Christmas lights, Santas, bustling lines to purchase children’s toys, and a plethora of holiday activities. Some people simply shut down, while lots of us notice a feeling of overdrive in our bodies, minds, and spirits.

Anne Randerson’s ratatouille

As spiritual directors and companions, how can we settle our nerves as we face this busy season? Memories come flooding in—good, bad, and mixed—of meals with family, silly quarrels with siblings, animated card games, aromas of hot cider, eggnog, turkey, cranberries and so forth. Each tradition differs. Holidays bring cheer, and sometimes, feelings of loneliness. When we meet with directees during this time, we might pick up their feelings of loneliness or apprehension about holiday gatherings—even over Zoom. It’s not all cheer and celebration.

Family tensions surge… Who sipped too much wine and got too merry? Who dug a fingernail into that chocolate to predict its flavor? Who grabbed last-minute deals on ugly sweaters, outmoded scarves, scraggly Xmas trees? As we gather with our loved ones during this busy time, it’s important to carve out precious time for self-care. The worst thing for a directee is a frazzled spiritual director, right?

Taking a Breather

For example, today, my partner and I were supposed to brave below-zero weather to travel to a town an hour away. It started to snow, so instead, we put on soft music, prepared ratatouille (a savory French dish), and danced in our living room. After that, we cuddled on the sofa with hot tea and enticing novels. As the sun set, we basked in an atmosphere of deep appreciation. Meeting our friends wasn’t worth the risky drive, and staying at home brought us peace.

Creating restorative space is a necessary part of being a spiritual director or spiritual companion. If we can’t grant ourselves downtime to calm our emotions and nourish our passions (like reading, writing, music, making healthy homemade dishes) how can we be fully present for our directees? Self-care helps us open our hearts and souls to the wisdom that lies within (both us and our directees), and the loving grace offered by God, the Divine, the Holy, or however you name the Higher Source of Wisdom.

Noticing Stress

If you are feeling overwhelmed or notice certain signs of extreme stress (racing mind, nervous ticks, sudden headaches, stomach pains, loss of sleep, overeating, lethargy), it’s best to consult a medical provider. You might also consider taking a “ratatouille day.” Turn off your technological devices, put on music that inspires you, plan a time-out in your schedule—alone, or with a loved one, even a cherished pet—and chill.

This self-care solution will help you help your directees, by settling your mind and body, opening yourself to the Higher Source, and spreading much-needed love and peace to all. Have a warm and wonderful holiday season!

[Note from the author: faith traditions across the globe have distinct ways of celebrating their holy days. The one I was raised in, Christianity, welcomes prayers for love, compassion, and goodwill to all. So does Zen Buddhism, which I studied in Japan. Prayerful messages like these translate into all world religions, faith traditions, ideologies, and languages. I’m hopeful that they will bring peace to all during this time of heightened global conflict.]

Many thanks to Teresa Blythe for this opportunity to contribute to Spiritual Direction 101.


Anne Randerson, Ph.D. will graduate from the Phoenix Center for Spiritual Direction Apprentice Training Program in January, 2024. Anne is a writer, mindfulness-based coach, teacher of contemplative practices and creative expression, and a member of Spiritual Directors International (SDI). In 2003, she earned her Ph.D. degree in Human Life Studies after six years of research in northern Japan. Her dissertation was on “Human Lifestyle and Sensitivity Towards  Nature from a Religious Perspective.”  Anne is Belgian-American, has lived in five countries, speaks six languages, and currently lives in Brussels, Belgium with her partner. She hopes to work online with spiritual directees from multiple faiths, cultures, languages, and backgrounds, especially those from international LGBTQIA+, ADHD, and creative communities. You may contact Anne at

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